Editorials, GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

A crumbling idea of progress—Child Labour

2001 National Census–

  • More than 12 million children in the age group 5-14 are engaged in exploitative occupations that are detrimental to their rights and to the full development of their potentials
  • 168 million child labourers, 59 million out-of-school children and 15 million girls under 15 are forced to marry every year

ILO: 5.7 million Indian child workers aged between five and 17, out of 168 million globally


What does the Constitution say?

Through various articles enshrined in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays down that:

  • No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24);
  • The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to 14 years. (Article 21 (A))
  • The State shall direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age and strength (Article 39-e);
  • Children shall be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth shall be protected against moral and material abandonment (Article 39-f);
  • The State shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years (Article 45).


Burden of poor health— Bronchial asthma, allergies, lung and eye infections, wracking coughs, fevers and immunity-destroying illnesses such as typhoid and jaundice—must also work to earn a livelihood (a socially toxic problem)


India’s mica minors—

  • Little children, even as young as four years old, work with blistered hands to collect mica in the dark, dungeon-like mines of Bihar and Jharkhand
  • The glittering mica is used by top cosmetic brands to add sparkle to the lipsticks and eye shadows
  • They suffer from head and body injuries and cuts, tuberculosis, silicosis as well as frequent heat strokes and long spells of dehydration.

Recent Interventions:

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO working along with American cosmetic giant Estee Lauder— is working to save children from the mica mines of Jharkhand and Bihar.


The health-the wealth & the shrinking childhood:

  • The winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Economics, Deaton (book The Great Escape) analyses patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and how does the burden of bad health spells doom for a poor country
  • Describes medical milestones and serious setbacks: the successes of antibiotics, pest control, vaccinations and clean water on the one hand and disastrous famines and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the other

Eg: An estimation by Kirk Smith of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) says that smoke from an Indian cooking fire has toxicity the equivalent of smoking 400 cigarettes per hour (not per day). Roughly, 780 million Indian villagers depend on dung, stones, wood and other biomass for cooking. The World Health Organization estimates that this kills 1.2 million Indians per year.


Bachpan Bachao Andolan

  • One-fifth of the children under 14 rescued were working in family enterprises
  • More than 40% of the rescued children were performing hazardous jobs—for example, working in roadside restaurants (dhabas) or manufacturing garments, leather goods, cosmetics or electronics—that would be allowed under the amended Act

Gurupadswamy Committee:

  • In 1979; this committee was formed to study the issue of child labour and recommend measures to tackle the same
  • Pointed out that poverty remains the core issue behind the issue
  • Need to ban children from working in hazardous areas and a regulation needs to be well placed for the working conditions

Actions undertaken:

1986- Enactment of Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act (prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others)

1987: Formulation of National Policy on Child Labour

1988: Launch of National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme (districts of high child labour existence)

To tackle the problem of child labour in India

Ministry of Labour and Employment took a three prong approach

  • Set up a legal framework for prohibition and regulation of child labour
  • Use various development programmes to address the needs of working children
  • Set up the National Child Labour Project (NCLP)


Recent proposed amendments to the Child Labour Act of 1986:

  • Offers least resistance and relaxed the ban on children working in family-owned occupations (informal sector and very difficult to monitor); Will encourage caste-based occupations; use ‘families’ for production
  • Relaxing the ban in the entertainment industry (one among the most exploitative industries) appears like a concession to the advertising sector, which is using children as a selling gimmick for all kinds of product
  • Extends criminalisation– Extend the ban from children below 14 years to include children below 18
  • Children aged 15 to 18 will be barred from working in only three industries—mines, inflammable substances and hazardous processes

Connecting the Dots:

  • Can a total ban on Child Labour in India see the dawn of the day? What are the elements crucial in its realization of ‘no-child-labour’ existence in the country?
  • How can a child’s right to safety and a safe environment be ensured in the labour industry? Discuss.

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